A place to see what is happening in Fine Arts at Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted and Creative

Saturday, April 25, 2009

21st CENTURY REFERENCE for futuristic design

Star Wars is still a popular theme for middle school artists at RMS. Here, two learners have appropriated the class laptops, setting them up in the sculpture center for easy visual reference, as they design their light saber handles.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Avid (rabid?) Puff City master-mind and collaborator, describing his work to his parents:
“Here is Puff city, and this is the Puff jet and this is the Puff armored chamber, and this is the Puff escape hatch, and this is the Puff pilot, and …”

Parent: “So, it sounds like everything has to start with ‘Puff…?’”

“And this is the Puff- lookout tower, and here is the Puff-gondola, this is President Barak O’Puffa, and here is Vice President Joe Puffin, and these are the Puff …”

When I bought the GIANT bag of pom-poms, I envisioned them decorating sculptures and collages and works in fabric. But I should have known better, ever since the first pom-pom entered our studio, they have had, well, personalities. They are not decorations they are beings. Two years ago it was “puff-pets.” Last year, I hid them. This year, they were requested, begged for and finally released from their plastic bin hiding place. And “Puff City” was born.
What started as a two-kid collaboration has become a long-term project which now involves “almost every boy in the class.”
The girls, meanwhile, have been making “babies” out of aluminum foil, or creating fashions in the Fabrics & Fibers center. They glance over now and then to survey the project.
The newest response from the girls has been puff-torture. It was'nt long after the encaustic (painting with melted, pigmented wax) mini-center appeared that puffs started showing up encased in wax. This hostile discourse was unexpected, and the boys are not sure how to respond. Is it a coincidence that Puff-City has been temporarily laid aside?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Artistic Spaces Support Artistic Behaviors

"I love how I can see and reach everything I need"

I overheard a child say this when she was visiting our art classroom. My students are used to the studio set-up, but for visitors, it may be the first time that have had access to tools and materials (instead of having the teacher pass things out!) I think the studio-set up is an essential component of the program; it lets learners behave like artists.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tape Artists

It started with a balloon and a roll of duct tape. The first balloon popped. One boy spent days working on his tape-ball, until it became heavy and very un-balloon like. Of course more followed. Watching the tape supply flag, I issued a challenge: “I see that is a lot of fun, but is it art?”
We have had many discussions around this topic, and we are fairly comfortable with the unknown (this is a good time to start humming the Clem Snide song ; I love the unknown), but my students got the point. If this is simply tape-wasting, it’s all over.

The multi-layered form which once covered a small balloon was opened to create a zig-zag jaw line. Another had several long, dangly legs attached, becoming a “brain-slug” or spider alien.

And one, which by now was the size and heft of a coconut, became a coconut. A tree was added to hold up the coconut (and also to finish convincing me that it was, indeed, art - it is hard to argue with a palm tree).

There is a popular art trick involving clear packing tape and human volunteers: you simply wrap the volunteer in tape, (first layer is either saran wrap or the tape reversed so it won’t stick to the model), then after many layers, the form is cut away and reassembled. This is a very popular project in high schools and art camps. http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/high/Kris-TapeFigures.htm But it takes about three roles of tape per sculpture (ca-ching)…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quotes for thought

"Children and their art develop from the inside out, rather than from the outside in." ~John Dewey

"There are many benefits to child centered arts learning experiences, among them,that intellectual growth and increased cognitive function is a direct result of children continuing to become expert in the areas they do well in and building upon these areas of expertise..."
– Clyde Gaw (TAB Practitioner/Art Educator)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Save the Trees!

From Paper Maker to Paper Artist

“J” is a middle school student who‘s preferred working style is to work in series. Last year he produced an impressive collection of clay bird sculptures. Recently, it’s all about paper.
“J” specializes in designing stencils (early attempts were made of paper and tag board, but he now prefers “scratch foam,” sold for printmaking). “J” prepares paper pulp of needed colors, and proceeds to craft his design into the paper prior to “couching” (blotting).

"J" especially likes the way the trees escapes beyond the natural border of his paper sheet

Sign over Papermaking Center

Papermaking Center

If I Had a Hammer

“What if we used a hammer for printmaking?”

This question, by 7-year old “S,” sparked a mini-lesson about how artists employ objects in their environment to make art. At the start of class, learners were invited to choose any item in the art studio (any item that paint would not damage) to test as a printmaking devise. Each child in turn dipped their new tool into paint and observed the resulting image or texture. As this experiment concluded, learners were invited to stay and make prints or to choose a different center and begin their work.
All but one student moved off to work elsewhere. The learner who remained had more experiments to conduct: What would the imprint of a feather look like? Would a pom-pom work as a paintbrush? Many different items were tested, and in the end, some of the objects that were used to make prints were attached to the paper (did you know paint could work like glue?), becoming a permanent part of the resulting image.
Art education professor and artist George Szekely (University of Kentucky) once told me about a field trip he conducted with his class of undergraduates. He gave each student a dollar, and drove them to a dollar store. Their mission: find something to make art with or to make art out of. They returned to the studio to make art with their odd-ball treasures-turned-art –tools (picture; toilet plungers, mustard squeeze bottles, feather dusters, pizza cutters…).
Wouldn’t that be fun?

Arthur Ganson’s Machines

I like to run Arthur Ganson’s dvd in the sculpture center sometimes when students work. It is amusing, sometimes captivating, and always entertaining. Ganson’s work reminds me a lot of the work I sometimes observe my students engaged with. Like Ganson, learners in the sculpture/construction center are inventing, experimenting and engineering. There is often an element of humor. Occassionally, like Ganson, learners design their own tools to suit a special, idiosyncratic task. I think of Arthur Ganson as a grown-up RMS student, and am pleased that he found his own path and relishes creativity. Today I found liner notes in the Machines dvd case. Here is how it starts:

For me, the practice of fusing material with idea and emotion began when I was a child. I was very introverted and found it difficult to talk directly to anyone about what I was feeling. What I did do, however, was retreat to the basement where I would pour my heart into little things that I would make for people. It became my way of speaking, and to some extent it was critical for my survival.
~Arthur Ganson, (2004) Machines, Liner notes

If you would like to see some of Arthur Ganson’s machines, go to:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A New President

The whole school gathered in our community room last week to witness the inauguration of President Barak Obama. Together we stood up, sat down, applauded, cried and cheered. Later that day, in the art studio, I showed some artwork created by artists from around the world; portraits of Barak Obama. I was gratified to point out that with the exception of bronze, students in our art studio have available to them all the media used by the artists in the slides I presented, even, surprisingly, dryer lint. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/16/obama.art.irpt/index.html)
After viewing the slides, “E” (age 10) was inspired to draw president Obama’s portrait. This is her first attempt, drawn from memory.

An observant classmate (“G”) noticed the New York Times Magazine I brought in and displayed, titled Obama’s People. I watched as she quietly brought the magazine, which she opened to a portrait of Obama, and placed it in view of her classmate. “E” then had a reference to work from and proceeded to make two more versions of the portrait, now working with more information.

I often point out to students that artists sometimes work from imagination, sometimes from memory, sometimes from observation, and sometimes from exploration and experimentation. Providing insight and the right tools is not just the role of the teacher however, as was demonstrated in our studio when one student (“G”, mentioned above) supported another with care and respect.

Developing Craft - Handmade Paper Artist

“J” started his experimentation with papermaking last year. Once he learned the basic steps of crafting paper from recycled and found materials, he began exploring the idea of using small batches of different colored pulp to combine in patterns within a single sheet of paper. This idea led him to devising various methods to keep the colors separate. He made dividers out of cardboard and stencils out of paper and tagboard.
Last week, during our extended “Wednesday Workshop” time, “J” tested out an intricate and ambitious stencil cut from the same kind of Styrofoam we often use to make relief prints (one could use a meat tray as well). He prepared his pulps, agonized over which color should be background and which should be used for the image of the bird he cut into his stencil. A third pulp was prepared for a design element surrounding the bird. The result was not as crisp and clear as he imagined, but while assessing the experience, “J” commented that he likes the end result because it is less overt, more abstract, and this he finds more interesting to look at.


9 ½ year-old “R” has spent a good deal of time constructing with cardboard tubes. He often constructs architectural pieces; buildings of all types. He also makes aircraft and space craft. This week’s animal form was a departure for him, and I observed his process with interest. After constructing the body and legs, neck and tail of this creature, he needed an armature for the head, and asked if I had a ball of some sort. Since I didn’t have anything that met his specifications, I suggested he could fashion his own ball out of crumpled newspaper.
During a recent whole-group demonstration at the start of class, “R” had seen many possibilities for finding or crafting armatures for papier mache sculptures, and readily adapted one of these techniques to fashion just the right size and shape for his animal’s head.

This watercolor and marker painting was created by 6-year old "K". It was hard for me to watch it walk out the door with "K," because it's magic had already cast a spell on me.

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